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When the past is present…


Racial Repair and Reconciliation: A Homecoming

By Dr. Fran Kaplan, Guest Blogger,

Note: Staff of the Wisconsin Humanities Council (WHC) asked ABHM’s Virtual Museum Director to blog about her personal reactions to the Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation that honored the museum’s founder, Dr. James Cameron, in February 2014. WHC funded the Gathering.

Dr. Kaplan and her grandchildren

Dr. Kaplan and her grandchildren

(…) As I looked around the room at the discussions taking place, my heart soared. I experienced a sense of hope for our hyper-segregated city such as I have seldom felt. I was not alone in that feeling.  In their evaluations of the event, participants expressed their fervent desire to continue and deepen this dialogue. ABHM is now conducting monthly conversations around the city.This is work that brings me special satisfaction and joy.

In 1971-72 I was a graduate social work student, specializing in community organizing, at the University of Michigan. My field work placement (internship) was with New Detroit, a large, black-led organization that arose to revive the city following the uprisings there. I was assigned to the Speakers Bureau, which conducted anti-racism training and organizing for whites and other non-blacks. As a Jew and a fluent Spanish-speaker, I was asked to reach out to the Jewish and Latino communities.

Jan Buchler, who recently retired as the director of a community-based organization, served as a facilitator of one of the diverse dialog groups at the 100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Cameron: A Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation. (James Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Attendees listen to each other intently at the Gathering. (Photo courtesy of James Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

It was a challenging, uphill struggle, but I loved the work. I had experienced the ways that racism distorts the psyches and lives of both victim and victimizer while growing up Jewish in a small Indiana town, and while living and working in the South with migrant farmworkers. At an early age I had already come to believe that racial/ethnic hatred and power struggles are a principal cause of suffering in the US and around the world – and I determined to do something to change that.(…)

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Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?

By Walter Dean Myers, The New York Times

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Illustration by Christopher Myers

Illustration by Christopher Myers

(…) As I discovered who I was, a black teenager in a white-dominated world, I saw that these characters, these lives, were not mine. I didn’t want to become the “black” representative, or some shining example of diversity. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.

Books did not become my enemies. They were more like friends with whom I no longer felt comfortable. I stopped reading. I stopped going to school. On my 17th birthday, I joined the Army. In retrospect I see that I had lost the potential person I would become — an odd idea that I could not have articulated at the time, but that seems so clear today. (…)

Then I read a story by James Baldwin: “Sonny’s Blues.” I didn’t love the story, but I was lifted by it, for it took place in Harlem, and it was a story concerned with black people like those I knew. By humanizing the people who were like me, Baldwin’s story also humanized me. The story gave me a permission that I didn’t know I needed, the permission to write about my own landscape, my own map.(…)

TODAY I am a writer, but I also see myself as something of a landscape artist. I paint pictures of scenes for inner-city youth that are familiar, and I people the scenes with brothers and aunts and friends they all have met.

Illustration by Christopher Myers

Illustration by Christopher Myers

Thousands of young people have come to me saying that they love my books for some reason or the other, but I strongly suspect that what they have found in my pages is the same thing I found in “Sonny’s Blues.” They have been struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgment of their value by someone who understands who they are. It is the shock of recognition at its highest level.

Read the full article here.

Read the companion article, The Apartheid of Children’s Literature, by Christopher Myers.

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Why Black Women Die of Cancer

By Harold P. Freeman, New York Times

blk women die of breast caSINCE the early 1970s, studies have shown that black Americans have a higher death rate from cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. This is especially true when it comes to breast cancer. A study published last week in the journal Cancer Epidemiology found that, in a survey of 41 of America’s largest cities, black women with breast cancer are on average 40 percent more likely to die than their white counterparts.

The principal reason for this disparity is the disconnect between the nation’s discovery and delivery enterprises — between what we know and what we do about sick Americans.(…)

The reasons for black and white differences in breast cancer outcomes are complex. Although the incidence of the disease is higher among white women, black women are more likely to die from it. Young black women tend to develop a particularly aggressive form, which no doubt contributes to the disparity. But for many years, the dominant cause of higher mortality has been late-stage disease at the time of initial treatment, in part as a result of black women being less likely to undergo mammography.

Having a mammogram

Having a mammogram

However, this gap has been closed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the rate of mammography is now the same in black and white women. What remains different is what happens after the mammogram: Black women experience significant delays in diagnosis and treatment. According to the C.D.C., even when they have similar insurance coverage, 20 percent of black women with an abnormal mammogram wait more than 60 days for a diagnosis, compared with 12 percent of white women. And 31 percent of black women wait 30 days to begin treatment, compared with 18 percent of white women.

blk woman has chemo

Having chemotherapy.

The Institute of Medicine reported in 2003 that black Americans with health insurance similar to that of white Americans are, at times, less likely to be recommended by physicians to receive curative cancer care. I don’t think this is because doctors are racist, but rather that they make assumptions about race that can be harmful. For example, a specialist treating a poor black woman may doubt that she will comply with a complex treatment and recommend a simpler, but noncurative, therapy instead.

The good news is that studies show that black and white women who receive the same breast cancer treatment at the same stage of the disease are equally likely to survive. If we can eliminate barriers to early diagnosis and quality treatment in black women, we can close the racial mortality gap.

Read the full article here.

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8 Influential Women of 2014

By Charlotte Alfred,

1. Afghanistan’s first female police chief showed the world what courage looks like.

Col. Jamila Bayaz was appointed to run security in the Kabul’s District 1 in January, becoming the first woman in such a senior frontline role. The mother-of-5 is responsible for policing an area of the Afghan capital that includes the presidential palace, government ministries and the central bank. “This is a chance not just for me, but for the women of Afghanistan,” she told NBC. “I will not waste it. I will prove that we can handle this burden.” ( . . .)

2. Xiao Meili put a taboo subject back on the map.529-CHINA_Activist_XiaoMeili_ImgYouku

Xiao Meili set off the remarkable journey in late 2013 to walk more than 1,200 miles between her home in China’s capital Beijing and the southern city Guangzhou to raise awareness of sexual abuse in the country. The 24-year-old woman told Time Magazine she hopes the unusual sight of a female backpacker on China’s roads will draw attention to how authorities handle abuse and will break the social stigma victims often face. At each town along the way, Meili and her supporters post letters to local officials urging them to investigate abuse allegations, screen teachers and improve sex education. ( . . .)

3. Azizah Al-Yousef began a campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system.

Azizah al-Yousif has been a thorn in the side of Saudi Arabia’s conservative establishment since she launched the October 26 Women’s Driving Campaign last year. In a bid to end the Kingdom’s ban on female drivers, women posted YouTube clips of themselves driving online. “We are sick and tired of waiting to be given our rights,” al-Yousif told CNN at the time. “It’s about time to take our rights.” ( . . . )

_72399826_723997394. The Central African Republic’s interim president Catherine Samba-Panza gave a violence-stricken nation new hope.

Catherine Samba-Panza, a women’s rights activist and reconciliation advocate who is known in the Central African Republic as “mother courage,” was selected to lead the country in January amid devastating ethnic clashes that forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes. As CAR’s first female president, she pledged to lead the country away from the circle of bloodshed. “At the very heart of the people, I felt this desire to elect a woman who could bring peace and reconciliation,” Samba-Panza said of her presidency, according to The Guardian. She has a formidable task ahead of her. This week the UN warned of “religious cleansing” and immanent danger to civilians trapped amid the fighting, Reuters reported. ( . . .)

5. Ukrainian pop icon Ruslana became a champion of the country’s protest movement.

Ruslana is one of Ukraine’s most famous pop singers and brought the country to victory at the EuroVision song contest in 2004. She is also a passionate social activist, so when protests against President Viktor Yanukovych erupted last November, Ruslana became a nightly fixture on stage at the protest camp in Kiev, according to Newsweek. “A public person, musician or artist should exercise their civic activism to be the voice of the people,” she told the magazine. The Washington Post reported that some of her performances at the EuroMaidan protest hub lasted up to 10 hours. ( . . .)

6. Mehrezia Labidi helped enshrine gender equality in Tunisia’s post-Arab Spring constitution.imgres

As vice-president of Tunisia’s constituent assembly, Mehrezia Labidi led the tumultuous debates over the country’s post-Arab Spring constitution. Labidi is the most senior female politician of the ruling Islamist part, Ennahda, and took a firm line for women’s rights throughout the debates, often to the disappointment of her own party. “It’s like giving birth: painful, but in the end everyone is happy when the child arrives,” she told Deutsche Welle. ( . . .)

7. Lena Klimova gave Russian gay teens a voice online.

Just days before the Sochi Winter Olympics opened in February, young journalist Lena Klimova was charged under Russia’s controversial ban on “gay propaganda.” Authorities targeted Klimova because of her incredibly popular “Youth-404″ website (404 designating “page not found”) where gay teens write about their struggles with homophobia in the country. ( . . .)

8. Zainab Bangura pushed countries to recognize that sexual violence in conflict has to stop.Zainab-Bangura

As the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Bangura has seen first-hand the devastating effect of rape used as a weapon of war. Bangura, who lived through the 1991-2002 civil war in her native Sierra Leone, told Reuters: “For me, one rape is too many.” ( . . .)

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12 Years a Slave Best Film of 2014

By Christopher Rosen,

A little more than six months after “12 Years a Slave” debuted at the Telluride Film Festival, Steve McQueen’s slavery drama has been named Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars.

Based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841, “12 Years a Slave” topped “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” for 2014 Best Picture honors. The film received eight other Oscar nominations this year, also winning awards for Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley).

Will Smith presented McQueen’s film, which was also produced by Brad Pitt, with the Best Picture Oscar. Pitt accepted the award before giving way to McQueen, a fellow producer. The 44-year-old made Oscars history by becoming the first black man to win an Oscar in the Best Picture category. (He lost Best Director, however, to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity.”) McQueen thanked his mother, his children and Pitt. “Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the legacy of Solomon Northup,” McQueen said. He dedicated the Oscar to the people who spent their lives suffering in slavery. (. . .)

“12 Years a Slave” had previously won top film honors at the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards, and it tied with “Gravity” at the Producers Guild Awards, a frequently reliable predictor for Best Picture. (. . .)

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A Frank Talk About Race

By James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A wonderful thing happened at the 100th birthday celebration for the founder of America’s Black Holocaust Museum — dozens of people from all colors and backgrounds sat at tables to discuss race relations in this city. (…)

Last Sunday, about 150 people gathered at the Milwaukee Public Library to honor Cameron. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore and Milwaukee Ald. Milele Coggs told personal stories of Cameron; and Robert Smith, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explained how Cameron became a civil rights leader.[Editor’s Note: Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf, nationally known for their book, Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and the Son of the Slave Trade, spoke of the challenges they faced in their own racial reconciliation journey.] (…)

There is still a lot of pain and emotion that surrounds the hot button topic of race relations in this country.

Let’s face it, we all have opinions and stereotypes that we harbor about those who are different from us, but the worst thing that can happen is when we have a breakdown in talks or we wait until something like the Trayvon Martin case comes to light to talk about how a certain group of people are viewed.

Jan Buchler, who recently retired as the director of a community-based organization, served as a facilitator of one of the diverse dialog groups at the 100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Cameron: A Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation. (James Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Jan Buchler, who recently retired as the director of a community-based organization, served as a facilitator of one of the diverse dialog groups at the 100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Cameron: A Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation. (James Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Last Sunday, dozens of people participated in the exercise. The tables were diverse and table captains made sure no one dominated the conversation or interrupted the person talking.

Groups tackled several questions such as: “What might the process of racial repair and reconciliation look like in Milwaukee?” “Why is it difficult for us to have conversations about race?” and “Do we need a safe place to have these conversations?”

The exercise also gave participants the opportunity to sketch out what racial repair looks like with crayons. No one at my table had a hard time with this part of the exercise, and most of us came up with the same conclusion: We are a divided city, and in order for major changes to occur, our neighborhoods, circle of friends and places of employment need to become more diverse.(…)

Theresa, who was at my table, said people just need to start talking to each other. Theresa who is black, moved to Brown Deer in 1983, but she said she still has neighbors who refuse to speak.

“We just have to be more willing to talk to people who are different than us,” she said. “I guess that I should start doing that, too.”

Jenna, who is white, said the topic of race is avoided so much that she is clueless as to how to even start such a conversation.

“I really don’t get it because it’s on everyone’s mind, but we can’t talk about it outside of our friends and people we know and love,” she said. “I’m in school and the conversation is avoided. If it’s not talked about at school, work or in our communities, when can we talk about it?”

Read the full article and view Causey’s video interview with Jan Buchler here.

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ABHM Celebrates Dr. Cameron’s 100th Birthday with Racial Reconciliation Gathering


Dr. James Cameron in the former ABHM facility.

On Sunday, February 23, 2014, more than one hundred Milwaukeeans and a dozen others from around the country gathered at Centennial Hall to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. James Cameron, ABHM’s founder, on what would have been his 100th birthday. Dr. Cameron passed away in 2006, so now the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation carries on his work. The theme of the celebration, A Gathering for Racial Repair and Reconciliation, honored Dr. Cameron’s charge to “forgive, but never forget.” He believed that to move forward toward a racially reconciled society, we must look back and honestly examine our country’s past. Just as Dr. Cameron fought for and won a state pardon for a crime he did not commit, he believed that justice for African Americans must be pursued.

Program of 100th Birthday Celebration

Program of 100th Birthday Celebration

The Gathering’s program opened with Reggie Jackson, ABHM’s Head Griot, who gave attendees a brief tour of ABHM’s virtual museum and spoke of the museum’s twenty-five year history and future plans. Three elected officials – Congresswoman Gwen Moore, County Supervisor Khalif Rainey, and Alderwoman Milele Coggs – each spoke about the significance of ABHM and Dr. Cameron’s legacy to Milwaukee and the world.

Dr. Robert Smith, the museum’s Resident Historian, then spoke about the founder’s role as a scholar-activist, the sociopolitical influences that shaped his life, and his essays on historical and contemporary topics.

Featured speakers Sharon Morgan and Tom DeWolf, authors of Gather At The Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade, presented a multimedia overview of their journey and the STAR model of healing from trauma resulting from generations of slavery followed by institutionalized racism.

Participants engaged in facilitated small group dialog.

Participants engaged in facilitated small group dialog.

Participants then engaged in facilitated small group dialogue about their visions concerning a racial repair and reconciliation process for Milwaukee, using the “Caring Circle” method for respectful attention and trust-building. The program ended with cake, candles, and singing “Happy Birthday” together for Dr. Cameron, followed by a book signing.

DocUWM‘s film students and graduates recorded the entire event, which, once edited into a documentary film, will be made available online on this website.

The Gathering was made possible through the collaboration of ABHM with the Milwaukee Public Library and UWM’s Cultures and Communities Program and with the generous funding from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Gathering was also cosponsored by: Alverno College, Milwaukee Urban League, Newaukee, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, and the Young Adult Committee of the NAACP–Milwaukee.

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(Your receipt will show the Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation as recipient of your donation. The Legacy Foundation is the non-profit organization that operates this museum.)


An African American Justice System

By Ashley Woods,

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan told a crowd of 18,000 in Detroit on Sunday that African-Americans should set up their own courts after being failed by the U.S.’ own justice system. “Our people can’t take much more. We have to have our own courts. You failed us,” Farrakhan said during the keynote speech of 2014’s annual Nation of Islam Saviours’ Day convention, according to the Detroit Free Press. (. . .)imgres

Standing on stage in front of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, Farrakhan told the crowd to look to the Quran and the Bible for guidance in setting up separate courts that would be more fair to African-Americans.

The Nation of Islam (NOI) religious movement, founded in Detroit in 1930, calls for uplifting the condition of African-Americans. The separatist group has been accused of being “deeply racist,” anti-gay and anti-Semitic; the group’s beliefs and practices are not embraced by traditional Muslims.

The Nation of Islam’s “Muslim Program” calls for equal justice for African-Americans under the law. But it also calls for bildeNOI followers to establish their own state under the law to be subsidized for 20 years by “our former slave masters;” an end to taxation on African-Americans if a separate state is not created; “separate but equal” schools divided by race and the release of all NOI followers from prisons and jails. ( . . .)

During his Saviours’ Day speech Sunday, Farrakhan also compared himself to inventor Henry Ford, another famous Detroiter, and one with notedly anti-Semitic views.

The Nation of Islam leader championed Ford’s success in improving the living conditions of his employees, saying Ford was “a great man who was called an ant-Semite,” the Associated Press reported. Addressing accusations that the Nation of Islam is also anti-Semitic, he quipped, “I feel like I’m in good company,” but added, “I don’t hate Jews. What I hate is evil.”

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12 Years a Slave to Be Part of Public High School Curriculum

By Lynette Holloway,

The initiative, coordinated by Montel Williams, will begin distributing the acclaimed film, book and study guide nationwide in September 2014.

Call it another win for 12 Years a Slave. The award-winning film will soon serve as another avenue for public high school students to learn about the harsh lessons of race in America, according to a news release.

12 yrs a Slave

Cover of Solomon Northup’s memoir, “Twelve Years a Slave,” upon which the new movie of the same name is based.

The National School Boards Association is partnering with New Regency, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to distribute copies of the film, book and the study guide to the agonizing portrait of 19th-century American slavery to schools beginning September 2014, in concert with the new year.

Montel Williams, host of the Montel Williams Show, is coordinating the effort, which is modeled after the show’s distribution of the Civil War film Glory to public high schools.

12 Years a Slave is one of the most impactful films in recent memory, and I am honored to have been able to bring together Fox Searchlight and National School Boards Association to maximize its educational potential,” the release said. “When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool. This film uniquely highlights a shameful period in American history, and in doing so will evoke in students a desire to not repeat the evils of the past while inspiring them to dream big of a better and brighter future, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

The film has earned nine Oscar nominations, and just last week, it was named best film at the 2014 BAFTA awards. Before that, it scooped up the best drama at the Globe Awards.

Editor’s Note: 12 Years a Slave won top motion picture honors at the 45th NAACP Image Awards tonight.

Read more about the movie here.

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Being a Black Student on a White Campus

By Rhonesha Byng,

In an emotional video released earlier this week, students at the UCLA School of Law gathered to share their stories of being among the few black students on campus as part of an awareness campaign simply titled “33.”

According to the video, out of roughly 1,100 students, 33 of them are black, that’s three percent of the school’s student population. Official statistics reveal there are a total of 994 students enrolled getting their Juris Doctor, however, an official from the school says the video’s 1,100 figure likely includes students receiving their LL.M. (Master of Laws). (. . .)

The students expanded upon their feelings of isolation, and feeling like they have to represent their entire community.

“It’s a constant burden of pressure. I’m constantly policing myself, just being aware of what I say and how it can be interpreted because I essentially am the representation of the black community.”

One woman felt she had been automatically characterized as an “angry black woman” after she disagreed with the views of a particular professor and openly vocalized her thoughts.

“The fact that I was a black woman played a lot into why people stopped listening to me. I felt like if there were maybe more black women in the class, maybe just five of us, people could have seen more of a variation in our responses to what was going on in class and what I felt like was sexism in the classroom.” (. . .)

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